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By Ted Nesi
PBN Web Editor
Walker Williams is a junior at Brown University and founder of Jobzle, a new job-search Web site for local students. He talked with PBN about what makes his site stand out and what his plans are for it.
PBN: What is Jobzle? What sort of response have you gotten to it so far?
WILLIAMS: Jobzle is a job network for college students. The site is a simple and free way for businesses, universities and local families to advertise jobs directly to college students. Whether you need a babysitter or a research assistant: If you’ve got a job, we’ve got a student.
The support and feedback we’ve received so far has been incredible – but these are early days yet. The next couple of months will be critical for us; our launch buzz is dying down and we’re getting a better picture of how people are reacting to the service. The success or failure of Jobzle is entirely dependent on our ability to adapt to our users’ needs.
PBN: Could you tell me a little about yourself and how you came to start the site?
WILLIAMS: I spent my high school years in New Zealand in a small town called Christchurch. During middle school and the early years of high school I became interested in Web technology and design. I suppose the entrepreneur in me came out when I was 16 and realized I could potentially make money doing something I loved and enjoyed. I started a small freelance design operation out of my room, which was perfect until I got to college. There was something about college that made me think bigger, and when I found a plan that I knew I could carry out, I jumped on it – and so Jobzle was born.
I would never have left square one if it weren’t for the support and guidance of my business partners, Kevin Durfee and Ben Mathews (and more recently Dominique Ferraro and Jen McLaughlin), who act as voices of reason during the process.
I’m actually a history major, which always raises some eyebrows. I figured if I was going to spend 40 hours a week on Jobzle and freelancing, I’d better make sure that the rest of my time wasn’t in front of a computer – no one ever warned me I’d be writing essays all day in front of the same glowing screen I was trying to avoid!
PBN: There are already a lot of Web sites out there for job-seekers, like Craigslist and Monster.com. Why create one specifically targeted at students?
WILLIAMS: The first misconception is that student employment is a small market. According to an American Council on Education study, between 70 and 80 percent of students work during their college career. If you consider that there are more than 17 million undergraduate students in the United States alone, that’s a market of more than 13 million working students. We’re just improving the process and becoming a more efficient middleman in an established market.
From a business perspective, students are a valuable labor group. We’re cheap, motivated and (generally) reliable. I’ve said this before, but why would you hire a temp when you could get a student who is just as qualified at half the price?
Also, Jobzle really focuses more on the part-time and odd job space. Need 15 people to cater a wedding? You could go through a temp agency and roll the dice on who you would end up with, or post the job on Craigslist and open it to the world – or you could jump on Jobzle.com and post the job for free within a couple of minutes with the tools you need to find the best applicants while keeping your personal information private.
On a more personal level, times are tough. You don’t need to be a genius to see that wallets are getting tighter and people are looking a little harder at tuition costs. I’m hoping Jobzle will be a way for students to earn their own pocket money or even to offset the cost of tuition.
PBN: You were guided by Barrett Hazeltine, the well-known Brown professor of entrepreneurship, in getting Jobzle off the ground. How was it working with him?
WILLIAMS: Working with Professor Hazeltine has been an honor for the entire team. He’s legendary around campus and we got to find out why first hand. If I ever had a question or problem, his door was always open. Even over the summer he was quick to offer advice and guidance. On top of being an excellent mentor, he also seems to know everyone in Providence and has established some great contacts for us. He was a fundamental part of the growth of this company, and has stuck with us since the beginning.
PBN: Could you see this model working in other markets? Do you plan to expand it?
WILLIAMS: Absolutely. We love Providence and this will always be our home base, but the service will need to grow and expand as we mature. We’ve got plans to get Jobzle into Boston within the next few months, and from there, who knows? For the moment I’m more focused on establishing the Providence market and improving the service while we are so agile. Keep your eye on us, because we plan on being around for a while.